After a two-week hiatus, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is back with a new episode, and I’m back to rant about fan feedback on the show, as well as a recap and review of “F.Z.Z.T.” I didn’t watch this one live, but DVR-delayed by a half-hour. All I know is that at nine o’clock a friend texted me to say, “Best. Episode. Ever.” Hmmm. I guess we’ll see, after the jump.
Ratings and Concerns
I have some business to take care of up front first. For the most part, I have been enjoying “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” but facts are facts, ratings are down, and a lot of folks are not happy with it. While the series is rooted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, let’s face it, this is not a high-powered superhero blockbuster like The Avengers that it shares continuity space with. Many have been disappointed by its pedestrian and low key approach to superheroics. It’s TV, folks, it has only so much budget, and by definition, it’s an espionage adventure series, not a superhero show. If you know S.H.I.E.L.D. from the comics you know this. And we’re not exactly following Nick Fury here, but a new team of specialized agents, we shouldn’t be expecting James Bond or even James Steranko either.
As far as the ratings go, yes, they have been dropping, it’s true. It is still the highest rated drama on network television, and it still had the highest rated premiere episode in more than a few years for ABC. There were, and are, a lot of people watching, and still watching this show. And yes, many of them are disgruntled comics readers. How these supposed fanboys and fangirls can complain about a well done spy show set in a superhero universe, and still be happy with some of the crap the comics companies are sewing out on a regular basis, is beyond me, but there you go. Here’s my line in the sand, if you loved Age of Ultron, you probably won’t like this show.
Is the Show a Failure?
Is the show a failure? Perhaps, if you gauge failure and success the way Hollywood does. For example if you spend $125 million on a film, and it only makes $250 million, but was expected to make $300 million – that’s a failure. Let’s not even take into account we’re still talking $125 million dollars in pure profit, that’s a failure. So is ABC’s biggest hit of the season a failure? Yeah, probably. But I’m digging it.
I’m a big fan of the 1998 Fox telemovie, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. I think it’s awesome, and yes, I know I am probably in the minority. Somehow I think it’s just me, David Hasselhoff, and maybe Steranko that dig it, otherwise it is pretty much universally hated. When you want to rag on the current TV series, remember the Hoff, and know that it could be worse. Remember the 1970s TV versions of Spider-Man and Captain America? Remember “Fred and Barney Meet the Thing”?
Trust me, TV has done far worse by our favorite heroes. Things could be much worse than “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” You have nothing to complain about. We have a wonderful, for the most part (it’s not perfect, I’m still trying to scrub Iron Man 2 out of my memory), series of films, and now the beginning of a Marvel TV Universe. Stop your bitching and enjoy. It’s only going to get better. Graviton is coming. And in two weeks, we’ll have a TV sequel to Thor The Dark World, directed by Star Trek veteran Jonathan Frakes.
The Real Story
Now on to this week’s episode, “F.Z.Z.T.” There’s a lot of good character interaction at the start. I like these characters. And it’s good to see Fitz and Simmons separately for once. They shine more that way. But it was also nice to see the two of them and Skye gang up on Ward. Did I mention I like these characters? That’s really what this episode is all about – character.
In the second half of the episode the agents are fighting a virus, a contagion that may kill at least one, maybe more of them, and destroy their plane over open ocean. The Bus becomes a time bomb, and the dramatic equivalent of Fonzie and the “Happy Days” gang locked in the meat locker overnight. Emotions are high, character is revealed. Clark Gregg has his Emmy moment, and Fitz and Simmons have defining character and relationship moments as well. In the end, what do they do? Paraphrasing one of my favorite lines from the James Bond mythos, M in the opening of Tomorrow Never Dies, “they do their job.” Yeah, I love this show.
There’s a nice name drop of Agent Blake, yeah, Thor’s stolen alter ego, Don Blake from his movie. Although at the close of the episode we find that this Blake is a hardass that barely resembles the Blake we know from the comics. I’m making an assumption based on the Thor movie, perhaps this guy’s name isn’t even Don – but wouldn’t it be cool if it was?
Moments later we get a Captain America reference in the same sentence as ‘The Dude’ from The Big Lobowski. Love it. Later we get Iron Man and James Bond. It would seem that “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is finally taking a page from the “Arrow” playbook and dropping Easter eggs, like a lost kid dropping bread crumbs in the Brothers Grimm’s Black Forest.
Also referenced, is the battle of New York from the Avengers movie, funny how that keeps coming up, huh? Apparently, an artifact (oops, sorry, I miss “Warehouse 13”), ahem, Chitauri helmet from that Avengers movie made it into the hands of first responders to the event, and now it seems to be killing one team of those firefighters from Pennsylvania. It’s leaves its victims oddly floating and sizzling with electrostatic energy. Misleading at first, and pointing toward Graviton’s return so much, I was surprised that no one mentioned Dr. Hall. My bet was on Zzzax based on the previews, but what do I know?
Melinda May’s Mission
Much was made at the start, the end, and throughout the episode of Agent Coulson’s health and pending physical exams. Of course, much of the audience is waiting to hear whether or not he’s an LMD (Life Model Decoy) or not. Body double robots are an old SHIELD gimmick, and the idea that someone’s brain patterns can be recorded and implanted into a machine are the basis of the Avenger called the Vision. It’s not unheard of in the Marvel Universe. There was much speculation at one point that Phil Coulson would become the Vision in the Avengers movie sequel.
We know Coulson was dead, for seconds, minutes, or hours, we just don’t know how he came back. I still have even money on him being an LMD, but an interesting dynamic occurred to me tonight watching “F.Z.Z.T.” When Coulson first tried to recruit May, she turned him down, then later changed her mind. What if she accepted, but under someone else’s orders – to keep an eye on Coulson? Who’s watching who?
“Best. Episode. Ever.”? Well, maybe, so far. Maybe it’ll put the critics to silence. I’m enjoying the show, will keep reviewing, and am looking forward to more. The next few weeks should be very interesting… And if you don’t like it, well, there’s always “Thing Ring, do your thing!”